We must be greener – ministry
The Environment Ministry has rubbished New Zealand’s clean, green image and poked holes in the Emissions Trading Scheme in a frank briefing paper to incoming Climate Change Minister James Shaw.
Natural resources have been pushed to ‘‘critical boundaries’’ by the economy’s reliance on exporting raw materials, and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is ‘‘not fit for purpose’’, the documents say.
They recommend the Government include agriculture in the ETS, and develop a plan to create a low-carbon economy.
They also criticise the previous National Government’s retrospective approach to hazard management – such as floods, droughts and coastal erosion – saying that actions needed to become more forward-looking. The briefing papers, released yesterday, made the following recommendations:
"Climate change ... has contributed to recent droughts, floods and increased risk of coastal hazard." The Environment Ministry
Improve the ETS
The current ET scheme, intended to reduce emissions by placing a price on carbon, is ‘‘not fit for purpose’’. The Government should implement improvements ‘‘to make it a more effective and credible tool for incentivising emission reductions’’.
To do so, it should fully implement plans to introduce auctions of carbon units to align the system with climate change targets; limit the use of international units when the market reopens to credits from abroad; and develop a different price ceiling to replace the $25 fixed-price option.
These changes would allow the Government to align the supply of carbon units with emission targets, and make the ETS more compatible with trading schemes in other countries.
Agriculture in ETS
Current targets under the Paris Agreement require New Zealand to reduce its emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The ministerial briefings note New Zealand’s emissions profile is unique among developed nations, with about half its emissions stemming from agriculture.
They recommend consideration of the full range of policy options for reducing agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Improve hazard readiness
Adaptations to natural hazards such as floods, droughts and coastal erosion have been reactive, and planning needs to become more proactive, ‘‘given the longterm and wide-ranging nature of climate change impact’’.
‘‘To date, the main focus of the ministry’s work has been on climate change mitigation. However, even if emissions dropped to zero tomorrow, some climate change impacts are already locked in.
‘‘Climate change has caused New Zealand to warm by about 1 degree Celsius over the last century, and has contributed to recent droughts, floods and increased risk of coastal hazard.’’
Protect natural resources
The papers note New Zealand’s traditional growth model is based on the export of primary products, which is starting to show its environmental constraints, exacerbated by population growth, higher visitor numbers, and urban expansion. It lists a number of reports showing pressure is mounting on climate, freshwater, the marine environment, and land.
Move to low-carbon economy
The Government should develop a plan to transition to a low-carbon economy. This is backed up by a 2017 OECD environmental policy review that recommended New Zealand develop a strategic plan to achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement target.